Phila. electric customers slow to switch providers

Pennsylvanians are now shopping around for the best deal on electricity. The end of rate caps this month mean that for the first time, companies can offer competitive pricing for power. While some customers are diving into the sea of choices head first, others are merely testing the water.

Customers who have been using PECO can now choose from 17 alternative providers, or stick with PECO. Spokeswoman Cathy Engel says so far, just 20,000 of the utility’s 1.6 million customers have switched.

“Those numbers, we do expect as we make our way through the beginning of 2011,” said Engel. “We expect that those numbers will increase because we know we’ve certainly seen a lot of activity by competitive suppliers in the marketplace, especially in November and December of 2010.”

However, PPL Energy has seen more than half a million customers defect, representing about 36 percent of the company’s business in Pennsylvania, according to Spokesman Ryan Hill.

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“I think the biggest driver is certainly price,” Hill said. “I mean customers are looking for the best price that they can get on their electricity supply.”

It’s unclear if price accounts for the difference, though PPL’s “price to compare” is about a half cent higher per kilowatt hour than PECO’s.

Even if customers switch, their old utility company will still deliver the power and collect transmission charges that are not subject to competition.

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